I know. I’ve gone from historic buildings and locales to a very modern studio tour, but hey, I love the Harry Potter books and the movies are a great deal of fun. I had wanted to go just to have a look around, but I really enjoyed myself! It was a great time!
I suppose the best advice I can give to someone considering the tour is to go the the Warner Brothers website and plan ahead. We booked in December for a date in February (although the week was a school holiday here) for our selection of days and times–Yes, you read that correctly, times. They claim the tour can take up to four hours. There have been people who have spent entire days in the park, but for the most part, I think planning 4-5 hours is an appropriate amount of time to plan when you schedule your day.
I opted to have our tickets posted so we would not have to wait in line to retrieve them prior to the tour. I will say that it was nice when you consider the line to actually get into the beginning of the tour!
We drove into Leavesden from over an hour away, so we allowed plenty of time for traffic and roadworks (road construction) in our planning, arriving with an hour to spare. This did allow us to get the kids a small snack before we got in line for the tour. The most that I can do to warn you ahead of time is that the entire experience is madness. The place is busy and it follows the entire tour. It was very smart for them to make appointment times to spread out the people within the actual studios!
Entering the building itself, the lobby his huge and has a cafe and the gift shop to each side with the queue to enter the tour down the centre. You enter the queue approximately 10-15 minutes prior to your time and you wind your way to the doors leading in. All in all, the line moves pretty swiftly, so unless you are with a small child, it isn’t going to be like waiting in line for Ana and Elsa at Disneyworld!
There is some introduction, mainly two videos and then you begin the tour in the first section, the Great Hall. It’s an amazing jumble of set props, costumes, wigs, room sets in the first portion. Things you wouldn’t have thought were actually sets, but were likely green screens stand before you in vivid detail. Sometimes smaller than you would have imagined with explanations that camera angles helped bring the prop before you to life in the movie. (Sorry about the quality of some. They claimed the lighting would be good for the photos, but my camera found it a bit dark)
We attended while they had some of the actual animals there. We saw Scabbers, Crookshanks, Hedwig, Fang, as well as a few other owls in front of Eyelops Emporium in Diagon Alley.
The beginning section also has some interactive things for the kids. They can ride a broomstick in front of a green screen for you to purchase either a DVD or a photo, and there is a spell casting lesson that my youngest children really enjoyed. I will say that the first portion seems to take the most time of the tour.
When you exit the first studio, there is another cafe that serves butterbeer. Just in case people are wondering, we read reviews that claimed it was terrible. It’s not. It’s a lot like vanilla cream soda with a vanilla flavoured whipped cream on top. It is expensive though (£2.75 for a small cup – $4.35), so we purchased on cup and all 6 of us tasted it.
The second half of the tour begins out of doors with some really fun things. Privet Drive, the Potter’s house in Godric’s Hollow, the Hogwart’s bridge, and the Night bus. When you enter the second studio, you begin with masks, make-up, and animatronics.
The next portion is the artwork, which is amazing. I went to art school, but the planning and talent that goes into something like this is amazing! I even had fun looking at the graphic design work they had for the movie.
You visit Diagon Alley, and then the last bit (I’m sure it’s online somewhere, but it’s supposed to be a surprise.)–I was awed. It is incredible! (Oh, and we spent around 5 hours in the tour. Longer than most, but my children loved the entire thing.)
Anyway, the last bit releases you into the gift shop where everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, you could ever imagine Harry Potter is sold. My children had a field day since their grandmother was there to buy them each something they wanted.
Now, after all my gushing about the experience, I will say my main complaint was the cost. The tickets are expensive, especially when you consider there were six of us. Then there was the butterbeer, which was high, and then you get to the gift shop. Some of the items were priced as I would expect, but shockingly, it was was the candy that made me choke. My mother-in-law initially told the kids she would buy them each one item and then a candy. She back-pedalled quickly when she saw the prices.
A box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavoured Beans was about £7 and a chocolate frog was £8.75! I know it is the novelty of it, but look at the cost of a chocolate bunny at Easter. Most do not cost almost £9. I loved the experience, but please be warned before you go. Fortunately, my children were old enough to understand, and my husband and I purchased them a box of Every Flavour Beans (they asked for them!) and my daughter wanted this weird lizard pop. My oldest bought her own chocolate frog.
That said, I would love to go again. I don’t know that we will because of the cost involved, but I’d still hope for a windfall! Perhaps in a few years. I understand they’re opening a new part of the studio, so we might get to see more!